Theory of Mind is the ability to understand the beliefs, intentions, desires and emotions of oneself or in others. In everyday social interactions, a child has to understand that others have different beliefs, intentions, desires and emotions that are different from their own. This understanding typically starts to develop at the age of 4 to 5 years.

Early in the process of developing Theory of Mind, encouraging your child to focus on someone’s eye movement can help them to learn to explain and predict others’ intentions, behaviours and feelings.

Help your child to understand that the direction of someone’s sight can reveal what the person wants or desires. You may use real objects or pictures, including their favourite and familiar characters.

Stage 1

Prepare two groups of toys and a doll. Have the doll clearly facing one of the groups. Say to your child, “Let’s see whether the doll wants balls or Lego blocks?”,

Praise your child when he says, “The doll wants to play Lego as he’s looking at it.”. Your child can continue to practise with other objects, e.g. food, drinks, clothes or places.

If your child answers incorrectly, you can support your child by providing visual prompts like drawing a circle around the object or using an arrow to indicate the relation between eye direction and the target object clearly.

Stage 2

Next, increase the complexity by placing several groups of objects.

This time, parent can ask, “What does the doll want?”. Let’s see if your child says or points to the correct object.

Stage 3

Extend this into daily life by having your child pick up the things you want by following your eye direction.